During the summer of 2020, protesters flooded the streets outraged over the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans. Voices across the country erupted, crying out for an end to violence against minorities, as well as equity for minority groups in traditionally white spaces.
The University of Northern Colorado’s School of Theatre Arts and Dance has begun to answer that call. While the school has taken steps like introducing its anti-racist action plan and giving underrepresented students a voice through its Student Equity Advisory Board, the school took another step towards equality this year by forming an alliance with Broadway for Racial Justice.
Rebecca Rich, interim associate director and assistant professor of acting for the School of Theatre Arts and Dance, sought out the alliance after hearing the executive director of Broadway for Racial Justice, Brandon Nase, speak at a virtual event called the Broadway Advocacy Coalition in January 2021. Though the school was granted allyship designation in April, according to Rich, it’s been difficult to know the alliance’s effects on students since school has only been back in session since late August.
Rich says she is glad to have this allyship in place to help students and faculty avoid
damaging interactions regarding race.
“I feel like BFRJ is a good sounding board in that regard to help me, help my students, to help me help professors, and other of my peers and my colleagues in terms of what’s happening in their rooms and how they can prevent, to the best of their abilities, future harmful situations and how to deal with in the moment harm repair,” Rich said.
The alliance gives students access to a greater number of resources in areas like amplification, funding for shows and a hotline that can be used to report incidents of racism in theatrical workplaces and institutions.
Micah Lawrence, a junior acting major, says that organizations like this offer essential
support to people of color.
“It’s nice to know that there’s an organization that is doing something for us… they’re teaching how to make us feel safer, giving us resources, places to seek advice, to seek mentorship,” Lawrence said.
For much of its existence, theatre has been dominated by white males. From its earliest Greek performances that prohibited women to join men upon the stage, to the plays of white, male playwrights like Henrik Ibsen, Tennessee Williams and Anton Chekhov and the guiding textbooks for directors written by men like Francis Hodge, white men have played a dominant role in the shaping and history of theater.
Lawrence says that while the alliance with Broadway for Racial Justice is a good implementation, marginalized students still struggle with a lack of representation in the theatre program as almost all of the schools’ faculty is white.
“I think that it will be beneficial, but it’s hard to invoke change when the people who are trying to invoke change look nothing like us,” Lawrence said. “It’s a good step, but it’s not enough yet.”
Rich shared that the school recognizes changes still must be made.
“We know that there’s still more work to be done, and that this is not a race and that
collaboration takes time,” Rich said.